Convicted under the kangaroo court conditions of the Espionage Act, Jeffrey Sterling never had a chance.
By Philip Giraldi
February 12, 2015
The American Conservative

The Obama administration is gloating over the recent conviction of Jeffrey Sterling in an Alexandria, Va. federal court for allegedly leaking details of a secret government program called Operation Merlin that was intended to damage Iran’s nuclear program. Attorney General Eric Holder described the verdict as “…a just and appropriate outcome. The defendant’s unauthorized disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security. The disclosures placed lives at risk.”

But some serious doubts persist over whether Sterling actually did anything illegal. Sterling was charged and convicted on nine counts, seven of which pertain to the Espionage Act of 1917, which was mostly of interest to antiquarians before it was taken off the shelf and used by the George W. Bush administration and subsequently employed even more frequently by Barack Obama’s increasingly reactionary Justice Department. The Espionage Act, designed to catch and convict enemy agents during wartime, gives the prosecution considerable leeway in terms of how it defines and conducts its case. Prosecutors can cite national security as an excuse to limit what would be considered normal constitutional protections such as the right to confront one’s accuser. They can also restrict access to certain types of information on national security grounds and order investigations within the government definition of what constitutes probable cause, to include someone’s searching the internet for information that might be regarded as “suspicious.”

Prosecutors can also divide their case into separate counts to ensure success even if there is a failure to convict on some of the charges. Even though Sterling was accused of only one leak the specific counts against him included seven separate elements linked to the alleged crime. Mimicking the curious language employed by the Act itself, two of the charges include causing journalist James Risen to write a 2003 article, as well as the account of Merlin contained in his book State of War.

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